2023 World Cup Athens Day 1 Prelims Recap: Clash Of The Women’s 50 Free Titans


The second stop of the 2023 World Aquatics Swimming World Cup kicked off today from Athens, Greece, with nearly all of the big guns back in the water immediately from Berlin.

Right off the bat, New Zealand’s Erika Fairweather staked her claim again on the women’s 400m freestyle. After earning gold last week in a new World Cup Record of 4:01.09, the 19-year-old produced a swim this morning of 4:07.96 to claim the top seed.

Last week’s 400m free runner-up, Lani Pallister secured the 2nd seed. The Aussie touched in 4:10.72 while USA’s Claire Weinstein rounded out the top 3 AM performers in 4:11.54.

Of note, Hong Kong’s Siobhan Haughey, who notched a new national record of 4:05.30 for bronze in Berlin, was not among the field.

China’s on-fire performer Zhang Yufei claimed the top spot out of the women’s 200m fly this morning. The newly-minted Asian Games co-MVP kicked off her Athens campaign in a time of 2:12.26 to carry a healthy advantage over Katie Grimes of the United States.

Grimes registered a morning outing of 2:13.55 to snag the 2nd seed, the same position she found herself in after the Berlin heats. She ultimately finished 4th in 2:09.08 there, finishing about 2 seconds behind Zhang who took gold in 2:07.11.

Grimes’ stars n’ stripes teammate Michael Andrew holds a narrow advantage en route to landing lane 4 in a time of 52.11 in the men’s 100m fly.

Chasing him will be Aussies Cody Simpson (52.13) and Ben Armbruster (52.23) while South Africa’s Matthew Sates is ready to rain on the parade as well with a morning mark of 52.34.

It was indeed MA who grabbed the gold in Berlin last week, scoring a time of 51.66. That held off Armburster by only .03, with 21-year-old Armbruster settling for silver in a lifetime best of 51.69.

Another South African Chad Le Clos improved his heats result from last week, but just barely. The multi-Olympic medalist sneaked into the final this time around in 52.97 whereas the first World Cup stop saw the veteran finish 9th in a faster time of 52.64.

MA also dove in for the men’s 50m freestyle at the end of this morning’s session, successfully claiming the pole position in that event as well.

The 24-year-old turned in a time of 22.04 and will be chased by 2nd-seeded Dylan Carter of Trinidad & Tobago (22.25) as well as Shinri Shioura of Japan (22.28).

Last week’s 50m free gold medalist, Isaac Cooper of Australia, was forced to race in a swim-off after having tied Dutchman Sean Niewold in 22.49 for 8th place.

19-year-old Cooper managed to get to the wall first in that head-to-head battle, posting 22.24 to Niewold’s 22.39 to keep his repeat gold hopes alive.

China’s Qin Haiyang is seeking another potentially head-turning performance in the men’s 100m breaststroke. The Asian Games co-MVP with Zhang put up a morning outing of 59.52 as one of two sub-minute swimmers.

Joining him was Dutch Olympic silver medalist Arno Kamminga who nabbed the 2nd seed in 59.74. British World Record holder Adam Peaty comfortably snagged his place in the final as the 6th seed in 1:00.31.

Last week, 24-year-old Qin turned heads with a big-time outing of 57.69. That mark established a new World Cup Record and matched his own Asian Record produced for gold at this year’s World Championships.

The story of the women’s 50m freestyle was the clash of the titans, as Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden and the Campbell sisters of Australia all placed among the top 3 performers on the morning.

Sjostrom scored the fastest time in 24.28, looking well on her way to potentially clocking the 28th sub-24-second outing of her career come tonight’s final. Last week she hit her 27th, claiming gold in Berlin in a 23.95 stunner.

Cate Campbell and Bronte Campbell are in the hunt, carrying morning of swims of 24.76 and 24.99, respectively, while American Torri Huske is right there as well with a morning time of 25.13.

Additional Top Seeds

  • World Cup newcomer Henrik Christiansen of Norway posted the quickest 400m free of the morning for the men. The 27-year-old notched a result of 3:52.07 to lead the pack by nearly 3 seconds. American Kieran Smith was next in line with a morning swim of 3:55.02. The Berlin victor, Danas Rapsys of Lithuania, is lurking as the 4th seed with a casual 3:55.13. Rapsys took the title last week in 3:44.86 after only having sneaked into the final due to a scratch.
  • Aussie Olympic multi-gold medalist Kaylee McKeown looks primed to take the women’s 50m backstroke gold again. The 22-year-old clocked a time of 27.65 to hold a slim advantage over Canadian Kylie Masse who touched in 27.85 this morning. The pair represented the sole swimmers to dip under the 28-second barrier in the heats and will be hunted by the likes of Maggie MacNeil and Ingrid Wilm, also both from Canada. However, McKeown is coming off a decisive victory from Berlin where she nabbed a new World Cup Record of 27.24.
  • The men’s 200m backstroke field played their cards close to their chests this morning, as no athlete broke the 2:00 mark. Leading the way was 19-year-old Pieter Coetze of South Africa, making his World Cup debut in a time of 2:00.70. Next was Italy’s Thomas Ceccon in 2:00.99 while Ryosuke Irie (2:01.17) will also be in the mix in tonight’s main event.
  • Danish standout Thea Blomsterberg began her World Cup showing with a bang, capturing the #1 seed in the women’s 200m breaststroke. The 21-year-old clocked a time of 2:25.61 to stave off Jenna Strauch of Australia (2:26.41) and Tes Schouten of the Netherlands (2:26.43). The trio was by far the quickest of the bunch, as 4th-seeded Nikoleta Trinikova of Slovakia touched well back in 2:29.14. Blomsterberg owns a lifetime best of 2:22.42 from when she placed 5th in the event at this year’s World Championships. It was there in Fukuoka that Schouten, too, registered her career-quickest time, 2:21.63 for bronze.

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8 months ago

Looks like the ‘bulked up’ TEAM USA is doing about what one might expect after the results from Berlin. However, I’m sure all the teens swimming in Athens from  Palo Alto Stanford Aquatics are having a blast! Good for them – great experience for international competition — and catching a few tourist sites as well!

8 months ago

Hoping for a simpson podium tonight!

Reply to  Owlmando
8 months ago

You got it

About Retta Race

Retta Race

Former Masters swimmer and coach Loretta (Retta) thrives on a non-stop but productive schedule. Nowadays, that includes having just earned her MBA while working full-time in IT while owning French 75 Boutique while also providing swimming insight for BBC.

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